Dubai - Austrian Bernd Wiesberger emerged the sole leader at Omega Dubai Desert
Classic after Thursday's first round featuring a deluge of birdies at the
Emirates Golf Club Thursday.
The 29-year-old Wiesberger appeared to be struggling on the greens as he did
not make a single birdie in his first five holes, but warmed up his putter
nicely, needing just 25 putts to complete a round of eight-under par 64.
It kept him one ahead of American Peter Uihlein, Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts
and the English duo of Lee Westwood and Andy Sullivan.
And gave him a two-shot advantage over the world number one Rory McIlroy and
the defending champion Stephen Gallacher, who both shot matching 66s.
The scoring conditions were ideal, with not an iota of wind on the course
for much of the day with the greens extremely receptive and rolling well.
The scoring average for the field was more than a shot less than par - 70.97
- and as many as 80 players in the 132-man field submitted sub-par scores.
Westwood, who closed his 2014 season with a win in the Thai Golf
Championship, started his year well, and two huge birdie putts in his last five
holes - one was from 35 feet on the fifth hole and the other from 18 feet on
the ninth - saw him close on a 65.
McIlroy also finished on the tough par-4 ninth, but he made his only bogey
of the day there after struggling to find fairways off the tee.
Colsaerts met with a similar fate as McIlroy, and having started from the
10th tee and making eight birdies, he too closed with a bogey on the ninth for
Wiesberger, who finished inside the top-six in the previous two events,
could have closed his round with six straight birdies, but missed a chance on
the par-5 18th for his 64.
"Just a bit disappointed to miss that last birdie. It would be my first
63 out there but still a great day," said Wiesberger, who could move into
the top-50 of the world ranking with a good result this week.
"It was a special back nine today. Played really well from the ninth
onwards. I hit a lot of birdies. I didn't quite jump off that train really and
it was nice to get to 8?under par.
"I had a bit of problem with the pace of the greens early on and I left
a lot of good chances short, which I didn't like really. It was all right after
I started getting the pace right."
Westwood said he did not feel rusty at all despite this being his first
start of the year.
"No, there wasn't any. That's one of the joys of living in Florida. You
get to play a lot of winter golf and remain sharp and I just tried to keep
myself at the level I was when I finished up in Thailand at the end of last
year, and obviously working on a few things as well.
"After Thailand, I didn't pick a club up for 10-12 days, to regain a
bit of freshness, mental freshness more than anything. So, it is nice to come
out this year with a good balance of freshness, a bit of sharpness, as
McIlroy did not have the best driving day of his life - he just found five
out of 14 fairways - but he still managed to hit 14 greens in regulation and
made his only bogey on his closing hole with another errant tee shot.
"A little disappointing to bogey the last but the golf I played up
until then was nice. It's a solid start," said McIlroy.
"I started pretty similar to how I started in Abu Dhabi. I didn't hit a
fairway until the 17th, which was my eighth hole, but I scored well for those
holes. I can't complain with 66 to start."
Defending champion Gallacher joined McIlroy on 66, while Martin Kaymer and
Graeme McDowell were among a group on 67.
World number two Henrik Stenson could not get enough birdies in his
two-under par 70, while number five Sergio Garcia was one of the few who
struggled on the course, making a 75.
Scores on Thursday after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic (par 72):
64 - Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)
65 - Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Andy Sullivan (ENG), Lee Westwood (ENG), Peter Uihlein (USA)
- Seve Benson (ENG), Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Marc Warren (SCO), Rory
McIlroy (NIR), Anders Hansen (DEN), Maximilian Kieffer (GER), Hennie
67 - Mikko Ilonen (FIN), Yang YE (KOR), Martin Kaymer
(GER), Jorge Campillo (ESP), Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Graeme McDowell
(NIR), Danny Willett (ENG)
68 - Robert Rock (ENG), Andrew Johnston
(ENG), Tom Lewis (ENG), David Lipsky (USA), Joost Luiten (NED), Renato
Paratore (ITA), Grgory Havret (FRA), Jake Roos (RSA), Thomas Aiken
(RSA), Alexander Noren (SWE)
69 - Kristoffer Broberg (SWE), Garth
Mulroy (RSA), Dawie Van der Walt (RSA), Thomas Pieters (BEL), Wade
Ormsby (AUS), Pablo Larrazbal (ESP), Gary Stal (FRA), Grgory Bourdy
(FRA), Anthony Wall (ENG), Simon Khan (ENG), Paul Waring (ENG), Daniel
Brooks (ENG), Paul Lawrie (SCO)
70 - Jordi Garca Pinto (ESP),
Felipe Aguilar (CHI), Richard Green (AUS), Rafael Cabrera (ESP), Henrik
Stenson (SWE), Edouard Espana (FRA), Michal Lorenzo-Vera (FRA), Jeev
Milkha Singh (IND), Edoardo Molinari (ITA), Ahmed Marjan (MOR), An
71 - Damien McGrane (IRL), Marco Crespi (ITA),
Shiv Kapur (IND), Niclas Fasth (SWE), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Magnus
Carlsson (SWE), Johan Carlsson (SWE), Jaco Van Zyl (RSA), Lucas
Bjerregaard (DEN), Morten Madsen (DEN), Scott Hend (AUS), Raphal
Jacquelin (FRA), Dominic Foos (GER), Moritz Lampert (GER), Richie Ramsay
(SCO), Craig Lee (SCO), Simon Dyson (ENG), Bradley Dredge (WAL),
Matthew Baldwin (ENG), Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Zane Scotland (ENG),
Richard Bland (ENG), David Howell (ENG), Oliver Wilson (ENG), Ross
Fisher (ENG), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR), Thongchai Jaidee (THA)
Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Matthew Nixon (ENG), James Morrison (ENG), David
Horsey (ENG), Steve Webster (ENG), Ross McGowan (ENG), David Drysdale
(SCO), Chris Doak (SCO), Michael Hoey (NIR), Jerome Lando-Casanova
(FRA), Alexander Levy (FRA), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Thomas Bjorn (DEN),
Jos Mara Olazbal (ESP), Alejandro Caizares (ESP), Ernie Els (RSA)
- Branden Grace (RSA), Jbe Kruger (RSA), Peter Lawrie (IRL), lvaro
Quirs (ESP), Brett Rumford (AUS), Mark Tullo (CHI), Darren Clarke (NIR),
Scott Jamieson (SCO), Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG), Oliver Fisher (ENG),
Mark Foster (ENG), Oliver Farr (WAL)
74 - Sam Hutsby (ENG),
Richard Finch (ENG), Prom Meesawat (THA), Jason Palmer (ENG), Eddie
Pepperell (ENG), Benjamin Hbert (FRA), Darren Fichardt (RSA), Mikael
75 - Marcel Siem (GER), Romain Wattel (FRA), Julien
Quesne (FRA), Sergio Garca (ESP), Soren Kjeldsen (DEN), Graeme Storm
(ENG), Joshua White (ENG), Michael Harradine (SUI)
76 - George Coetzee (RSA)
77 - Jeong Jin (KOR), Luke Joy (ENG)
78 - James Allan (ENG)
79 - Matteo Manassero (ITA)
82 - Faycal Serghini (MAR)